Tag Archives: London 1948 Olympics

Employment of Disabled People

With the Paralympic Games taking place in London right now there has been considerable interest in the history of the event, and the way in which it and other initiatives have challenged prejudice towards disabled people.

The First and Second World Wars saw large numbers return home with severe physical injuries, and within both government and the medical profession there was a drive to offer these veterans the best care and opportunities. Dr Ludwig Guttmann, a neurologist who worked at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, where military personnel with spinal injuries were treated, had observed that his patients benefitted from physical activity and in order to encourage this he organised the first International Wheelchair Games (IWG).

The IWG was held parallel to the 1948 London Olympic Games, and was so successful that it was held again, at the same venue in Stoke Mandeville, in 1952. By 1960 the Games had become known as the Paralympics, and were being held in the same host cities as the Olympic Games. An increasing number of athletes from around the world were taking part, and the Games were no longer open solely to war veterans.

The aftermath of war also saw concerted efforts by government to advance employment opportunities for disabled people and within the Royal Mail Archive are records showing how the Post Office responded to this challenge. One interesting item in the Archive is this design for a stool enabling disabled veterans to undertake postal duties.

Part of a design for a special stool for disabled soldiers, circa 1919. (POST 30/4652c)

Part of a design for a special stool for disabled soldiers, circa 1919. (POST 30/4652c)

Employment of disabled people by the Post Office pre-dated World Wars 1 and 2, and included the blind Postmaster General Henry Fawcett, but attitudes to disabled employment have been difficult to change.

Henry Fawcett was accidentally blinded by a shotgun at the age of 25, but did not let his disability deter him. He became a Professor and a Member of Parliament, and served as Postmaster General from 1880 until his death in1884. (Image from BPMA Portfolio Collection)

Henry Fawcett was accidentally blinded by a shotgun at the age of 25, but did not let his disability deter him. He became a Professor and a Member of Parliament, and served as Postmaster General from 1880 until his death in1884. (Image from BPMA Portfolio Collection)

A report produced by the Post Office in 1946 found that many ex-servicemen had been employed to perform duties which were often monotonous and had little prospect of promotion. The report recommended that disabled persons should be encouraged to undertake as wide a range of duties as possible.

By the 1980s Girobank, then still a part of the Post Office, won awards for its role in employing disabled people. There were even Paralympic athletes employed by Royal Mail during this time, such as five-time medal winner Ian Hayden who worked as an Equal Opportunities Officer at Royal Mail Oxford.

Visit our website to find out more about the history of disabled employees in the Post Office, or read other articles on this blog about the Paralympic Games.

The London 1948 Olympic Games – A Collectors’ Guide

From 25th July to 9th September 2012, the British Library is running the exhibition Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games, telling the story of the past and present of the Olympic Games through the medium of postage stamps and related memorabilia. As well as contributing to the exhibition the BPMA has also been involved in the accompanying book The London 1948 Games – A Collectors Guide.

This new publication by Bob Wilcock, of the Society of Olympic Collectors, gives us a detailed postal background of the 1948 Olympic Games.

London 1948 Olympic Games stamps, issued 29 July 1948

London 1948 Olympic Games stamps, issued 29 July 1948

It also includes an essay by the BPMA’s Curator of Philately, Douglas Muir, introducing the fascinating story of the 1948 stamp issue, demonstrating how – just like Royal Mail’s ‘gold medal’ issue today – stamps were used to celebrate and commemorate the Games. He writes:

As the stamp issuing policy at the time was very conservative, not all serious proposals resulted in commemorative stamps – but one event could not be ignored, and that was the holding of the Games of the 14th Olympiad in London and the south of England.

14 designers submitted designs, and from these the Council chose work by G. Knipe of Harrison & Sons, S. D. Scott of Waterlows, Edmund Dulac, Percy Metcalfe and Abram Games. Before these were shown to the King, the Postmaster General felt another option should be offered, and recommended a design by John Armstrong. The book contains images of all submitted designs as well as the issued stamps.

John Armstrong's design with mounted horse

John Armstrong’s design with mounted horse

With hundreds of colour illustrations, the books also features first day covers, postmarks, postal stationery, cigarette cards and other ephemera – a must-read for Olympic collectors.

The London 1948 Olympic Games - A Collector's Guide

The London 1948 Olympic Games – A Collectors’ Guide by Bob Wilcock is now available from the BPMA online shop.

Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games

Opening today at the British Library is Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games, an exhibition telling the fascinating story of the past and present of the Olympic Games through the medium of postage stamps and related memorabilia. The exhibition includes stamp artwork and stamp designs from our collection related to the 1948 London Olympic Games stamp issue.

Submitted design by Harrison & Sons with 'Olympic Games' in Esperanto.

Submitted design by Harrison & Sons with ‘Olympic Games’ in Esperanto.

While no stamps were issued for the 1908 London Olympic Games, the Post Office could hardly refuse to issue stamps in 1948 as the precedent had been established by host nations in previous years. A range of designs were prepared, with four eventually chosen for issue.

London 1948 Olympic Games stamps, issued 29 July 1948

London 1948 Olympic Games stamps, issued 29 July 1948

You can see the designs and the issued stamps for the 1948 London Olympics at Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games along with more than 2,500 other Olympic Games stamps until 9 September 2012. Or visit the Stamps & Philately section of our website to see the stamp designs and stamp artwork for a number of historic British stamp issues.

BPMA Summer Sale

The BPMA Shop summer sale starts today: It’s 20% off all orders! But hurry – this amazing offer only lasts for one week. Enter SUMM3R2012 in the appropriate field at checkout (excludes P&P) and place your order by 31 July 2012.

Savings Greetings Card Set

Savings Greetings Card Set

Choose from our range of unique postal heritage gifts: Learn more about our postal history and design with our publications, let someone know they’re the best with our First Class Greetings Card, get through this British Summer with our big BPMA Umbrella, or simply smarten up your standard business dress with a Penny Black Tie.

And just in time for “the greatest show on earth” the new book by the President of the Society of Olympic Collectors, Bob Wilcock, The London 1948 Olympic Games: A Collectors’ Guide is now also available.

Visit the BPMA show at http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/shop.